Romeo’s – the Uproar Comes From Fear, Ignorance, Bluster

[Letter to Williamson County Sun, October 4, 2006 – Ross Hunter]

To unlock the economic value of the square and downtown over the coming few years will take a complex and subtle marketing strategy requiring cooler heads than possessed by those trying to make HARC the scapegoat for their lack of business skill.

I was surprised by your prominent highlight of Chris Damon’s allegation that the square is in a recession and that HARC is to blame for this. He will have to back this up with facts I think. I get the impression your newspaper leans towards this point of view. I encourage you to lean back a little.

The people of Georgetown deserve more information than has so far surfaced. Several private citizens were at that infamous meeting last Wednesday, and forced HARC to hear their disgust with the bordello-sized signage that city staff, acting on taxpayer salaries as advocates for Romeo’s, now propose be placed opposite the courthouse, in contravention of the ruling ordinance.

There is no city in the world with confidence in its areas of unique cachet that will allow a company to bring in alien iconography in the name of branding, especially the kind that shouts disrespect for the prevailing economic and cultural benchmarks. The true marketing experts, who work for the fast-food chains, understand this completely, and meekly comply with local standards from Santa Fe to Hong Kong, and make lots of money by fitting in.

Romeo’s should be less eager to annoy the townspeople and tourists by refusing to go native, and more concerned to supply these people with what they want, which the restaurant before them utterly failed to do, in clear violation of marketing 101.

It must be said that the stink of fear is on these merchants who are clamoring for a litter of garish signs on the square. They should look to their marketing plans rather than destroy the very environment that brings them trade in the first place. This is not the time to be afraid, or angry. Council members Carr and Sansing should consult their constituents before they dare the luxury of anger at a city commission enforcing a city ordinance.

City staff are NOT to be trusted in their recommendations. They have done the same thing here as they did in the Bus Depot fiasco, they’ve narrowed their focus and listened to outside voices that answer only to one specific interest, ignoring the inside views of the people who live here and consider all interests together. No wonder we locals ask if they remember where their paychecks come from. They deserve censure, and to account for their actions.

We chose as a political matter that we did not wish to be like Round Rock in letting business make final decisions, and we did this believing that we could enhance the beauty of the town in ways that would benefit for decades to come ALL businesspeople. We knew that business would never take any broader view beyond the fears and profits of its specialized time and place.

If we wish now to sell the town down the river again, let’s at least have open debate, and let’s get these titans of commerce to show some verifiable data, and pass the test of reason.

Ross Hunter


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